Not only will buying a home likely be the largest purchase of your life, but it will also probably be the most complex and legally involved transaction you’ll enter into. Because buying a home involves the law of real property, a unique set of laws, it involves legal issues that you won’t see in other kinds of transactions. And that’s where real estate lawyers come in because they are trained and have experience in the special issues and problems of real estate deals. But what, exactly, does a real estate lawyer do?
Why Buying a Home Calls for a Real Estate Lawyer
Typically, a home purchase entails the following steps:
- The seller enters into a written brokerage contract with an agent.
- The broker finds potential buyers.
- Acting as an intermediary, the broker conducts negotiations with a buyer.
- After coming to an informal agreement, the seller and buyer draw up a formal purchase agreement.
- The buyer secures financing.
- A title search is conducted.
- The property is transferred from seller to buyer, the seller gets her money (closing).
(You can find out more about the purchase process and how a good agent can make it smoother by calling 866-593-7012.)
Now, while this seems like a pretty simple, straightforward process, a lot can go wrong – disastrously wrong with enormous financial implications. And that, basically, is why most people should consider a real estate lawyer. Here, according to those versed in real estate law, is one of the main reasons to hire a real estate lawyer.
“A lawyer can help you avoid some common problems with a home purchase or sale. For example, a seller may sign a brokerage agreement that does not deal with a number of legal problems. This happens quite often.” And the same happens with purchase agreements that put buyers in a bad position because the agreement doesn’t address all contingencies and legal issues.
What a Real Estate Lawyer Actually Does
So let’s take a look at the important functions and tasks performed by a real estate lawyer in :
DRAWING UP NECESSARY DOCUMENTS
One of the key roles of a lawyer is as a drafter of documents. “Real estate attorneys prepare deeds for conveyance transactions, leases, and rental agreements, purchase contracts, and financing agreements. . . . [O]nly licensed lawyers can draft and revise the documents.”
NEGOTIATING BETTER DEALS
Because real estate lawyers usually have both breadth and depth of experience, they often help clients negotiate better deals on properties.
REVIEWING SALES TRANSACTIONS
Some real estate lawyers specialize and only review and provide advice about real estate transactions. “Clients will negotiate their deals, sign a contract and then ask the lawyer to perform the ‘due diligence’ on the deal. This means the lawyer will examine legal title issues, environmental issues and reports and any of the contracts or other documents involved in the transaction. Real estate lawyers have training that allows them to spot problems that their clients do not recognize.”
Sometimes real estate deals don’t work out and legal issues arise. In such instances, a real estate lawyer in will take the matter to court and represent the client in litigation. “This includes drafting legal pleadings to file with the judge, participating in hearings and trial with the judge, and filing appeals if necessary. It also includes bargaining with opposing counsel to try and work out settlement agreements.”
Other lawyers specialize in foreclosures, some representing lenders and others representing borrowers.
Do You Really Need a Lawyer?
So do you really have to have a real estate lawyer when buying a home? The short answer, according to the experts, is: Not necessarily.
“In some cases, you won’t have to find an attorney to assist you in buying or selling a house. Before they can receive their licenses, real estate agents are required to have a thorough understanding of the standard documents that buyers and sellers need to file before they can close on their homes. If you selected an agent with solid credentials and experience with handling real estate matters in your state, you might not need an attorney at all.”
Still, having a real estate lawyer can provide some additional peace of mind. And do be aware that some states restrict what agents can do during the closing, and other states require an attorney.
If your state doesn’t mandate it, you can likely buy a home and close without a lawyer – and without having to pay those attorney’s fees. “But,” the experts warn, “failing to meet with a real estate attorney could leave you susceptible to various pitfalls and lawsuits. Discussing your concerns with your real estate agent . . . can help you decide on the best course of action for your unique situation.” Our experienced agents can assist you in determining whether you need areal estate lawyer in and in finding that best course of action.